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Northeast Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association Blog

Hearth, Patio & BBQ Professionals Deserve a Seat at the Table When Discussing Climate Change

6 January 2021

The past year delivered unprecedented challenges for the American economy and our industry as we coped with the impact and disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic.

But on a consistent basis the biggest challenge to the hearth industry continues to be government regulations which impact our livelihood, create new hurdles to doing business and alter our ability to effectively serve customers.

At the core we are actually a building materials industry. But because we exist at the crossroads of both energy and environmental policy, we face more government regulation than any other segment of the building materials sector. When you integrate our critical role in servicing a range of heating equipment that uses a variety of fuels, almost every business function represented by the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (NEHPBA) is subject to intense regulation and government oversight.

We deserve a seat at the table and a voice in the process for all policy making that impacts our members. And in 2021, one of NEHPBA’s top priorities will be making sure we are at that table and that the industry’s voice – YOUR voice – is heard. You are more than 300 individual retail, service and related companies across the Northeast: chimney sweeps, installers, maintenance providers, retail showrooms and other entities. And you are part of a much broader industry nationwide represented in Washington by the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA).

In the Northeast region – the six New England states and New York - we are fighting for your interests and your livelihood. In Maine and Vermont we continue to advocate strongly on our members’ behalf against some of those states’ most aggressive and damaging initiatives that impact this industry. And most recently, were heavily engaged in bringing our industry’s message to lawmakers in Massachusetts as they finalized a comprehensive piece of climate legislation at the end of 2020 and into the early days of this year. Preserving energy choice is critical in the Northeast for the good of consumers and members of (NEHPBA). In Massachusetts alone we have over 60 member companies - the vast majority of them independent “mom and pop” small businesses. 

These NEHPBA members, as is the case throughout the Northeast, are good civic and community partners. All of our members are. You sponsor local little leagues; you serve on school boards and PTAs; you provide a sense of vibrancy to Main Street, not Wall Street; and you know the towns and cities you serve because you live there. The local impact you have on the economy is desperately needed - now more than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic, when so many of our small businesses are already being pushed to the limit.

NEHPBA recognizes the changing landscape of the energy and fossil fuel industry. We are committed to working with government officials and regulators at all levels to increase access to more sustainable and climate-centric fuel sources throughout our homes and businesses. But we must make our voice heard clearly as more states advance toward “Net Zero” emissions goals – as Massachusetts has done with its newest climate bill. With every major weather event the Northeast experiences – particularly in the winter – the potential peril of neglecting energy diversity as governments march toward lower emissions is evident. 

Our nation’s electric grid relies on natural gas for approximately 40 percent of U.S. power generation. That means the very sources of renewable energy that policymakers favor – electric heat, wind energy and other “non-burning” systems – are still largely dependent on natural gas for the creation of that energy supply. Put simply: U.S. natural gas demand is likely to skyrocket – as much as 65 percent by 2050 – over the same time period during which policymakers are planning dramatic reductions in natural gas usage. Additionally, the long-term measures required to fully repair the U.S. economy from 2020’s pandemic-inflicted damage almost certainly means massive new programs to invest in infrastructure and manufacturing will be on the table. Such initiatives will require tremendous amounts of energy that cannot be fulfilled without sustaining and even expanding gas-fired energy generation.

But do these macro issues really have a direct impact on YOU – the small business owner serving customers and households in your own community?

Absolutely.

Energy and environmental policy may be created at the federal and state level – but it is almost always implemented in some way at the local level, with visible impact on communities and the businesses that serve them.

You deserve a voice in these debates. You need a seat at the table. We are committed to providing both for all our members in 2021 and beyond.


Chelmsford, Westford Debut Municipal Clean Energy Programs - MA

29 December 2020

LOWELL — Thanks to organizing from local grassroots organizations, both Chelmsford and Westford are in the process of rolling out more climate-friendly municipal energy programs. Westford’s new plan will take effect in January 2021, while Chelmsford’s plan has been in effect since November.

“The most powerful thing that you can do as an all-grassroots organization in your town is to look at your aggregation contract and increase the renewables,” said Beth Perkins, co-chair of Westford Climate Action, the newly formed grassroots organization that was instrumental to Westford’s new aggregation contract.

Municipal energy aggregation programs, in which cities and towns bulk purchase electricity plans for their residents, have gained popularity across Massachusetts in recent years because they offer residents a cheaper, more consistent energy bill. Westford, which began its aggregation program in 2016, currently offers only one municipal energy option with 16% renewable energy. This is the minimum percentage of renewable energy mandated by the state.

After Westford Climate Action successfully lobbied the Select Board to diversify its clean energy options ahead of its 2021 contract renewal, the Board agreed to add three new options in addition to the state-mandated minimum plan, at 10.47¢/KWh (cent per kilowatt hour): the “Green” default plan, at 10% more than the state minimum, costs 10.79¢/KWh; the “Silver” plan, at 50% more than the minimum, costs 12.08¢/KWh; and the “Gold” plan, at 100% more than the minimum, costs 13.66¢/KWh. This contract will remain in effect until December 2023.

“A number of towns have gone for like 5% additional renewable energy, so I do think it’s significant that we went up to 10% additional renewable energy for our default,” said chair of the Westford Energy Committee Mike Berlinski.

Although 10% above the state-mandated minimum amount of renewable energy is significant for a default plan, Westford Climate Action members hope to increase the default amount in future contracts.

The group mobilized to bring a resolution to the Select Board in October that set a goal in the town of net zero carbon emissions in 2050, in line with those set by the state and the Paris Agreement.

“We collected over 200 signatures during COVID, which was a bit of a feat,” said Carol Morse, co-chair of Westford Climate Action. “We passed our resolution almost unanimously.”

Opting up to the 50% plan would cost the typical Westford resident an average of $12 extra per month from the baseline plan, according to Berlinski. And if everyone in town were to opt for the 50% plan, the impact would be equivalent to taking over 1,800 cars off the road, a figure that he presented to the Select Board earlier this year to persuade them to change the contract. “That’s pretty significant,” he said.

Perkins called opting up “a no-brainer” because renewable energy has become so affordable in recent years. National Grid’s residential energy plan costs 12.38¢/KWh, which is under a cent less than Westford’s 100% renewable energy plan.

Although Chelmsford’s previous aggregation contract included a 100% renewable energy option, this option was not well-publicized, and the aggregation program was primarily a cost-savings measure more than a green one. Tom Amiro, a member of Chelmsford Climate Action, said that only about 50 households opted for that option.

The new plan, which took effect in November, includes a middle option, 56% renewable energy at 11.48¢/KWh, in addition to the state minimum of 16% renewable energy at 10.04¢/KWh and the 100% renewable energy option at 13.02¢/KWh. This change is largely due to efforts by Chelmsford Climate Action and other citizen grassroots organizations.

Amiro hopes this middle option, along with a public awareness campaign by Chelmsford Climate Action, will encourage residents to opt for a higher percentage of renewable energy.

“For a few pennies, you can do something to slow down climate change and promote local renewable energy jobs, (but residents) have to be willing to put a little skin in the game,” he said.

Because both Chelmsford’s and Westford’s contracts mandate that the renewable energy must come from New England, an increase in these types of contracts statewide will spur job creation in the region, particularly in the renewable energy sector. New England’s clean energy sources primarily include wind and solar energy, but also include landfill gas, low impact hydroelectric power and certain types of biomass.

Municipal aggregation programs have increased in popularity across the state in recent years according to Marlana Patton of Peregrine Group, an energy consulting firm that works with Chelmsford and other cities and towns in Massachusetts.

“It’s been available and possible in the state for many, many years. But in the past five years or so, it’s really exploded,” she said. “We went from having just a very, very small number of communities that have these kinds of programs, (now) it’s got to be nearly half the state at this point. And there are more in the regulatory queue.” Patton works with towns including Lexington, Nantucket, Newton, Cambridge, Acton, Swampscott and Worcester on green energy aggregation programs. Boston, Lowell, Brookline and Arlington also have programs with green options.

“Individuals don’t have to make a big change to their lifestyle, they don’t have to give up their gas-powered cars, they don’t have to cover their whole roofs and land with solar, but they can still reduce their carbon footprint in a less invasive way,” Berlinski said of the benefits of municipal aggregation programs that prioritize renewable energy.

Chelmsford residents can visit chelmsfordchoice.com and Westford residents can visit masscea.com/westford to learn more and change their energy plans.

Source: Lowell Sun


First Winter Weather Blast Threatens Widespread Power Outages as Major Storm Highlights Importance of Energy Diversity

17 December 2020

December 17, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NEHPBA: Preserving access to natural gas and other fuel sources is critical for emergency readiness in major weather events

Sudbury, MA – The Northeast Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association today urged residents across New England and the Northeast to be safe and prepare for the impact from a major winter storm – with widespread power outages and property damage from falling trees a likelihood in many communities.

The late-year Nor’reaster also highlights the critical nature of energy diversity and the risks of over-dependence on electric power for household and commercial heating.

“A winter storm can knock out sections of the power grid in an instant. And severe cold and winter weather can place people at serious risk almost immediately,” said Joel Etter, President of NEHPBA and Senior Wholesale Account Manager for Hearth & Home Technologies. “Winter Nor’easters, blizzards and ice storms are something we are all too familiar with in New England. When the grid goes down in those conditions, over-reliance on electric power can be dangerous.”

NEHPBA is part of a cross-section of industry associations and advocates fighting to maintain energy diversity in the marketplace – as special interests support initiatives to ban natural gas, complicate regulations around propane and wood-burning fuel products and limit choices for home-heating systems. The industry is working together with other businesses as well as consumers to ensure natural gas continues to be available in New England and the Northeast as part of a complete range of energy choices.

Survey data commissioned by the nationwide Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association in November found 65 percent of American voters polled believe it’s either “very important” or “somewhat important” to have multiple fuel choices for home heating. Additionally, 71 percent of voters surveyed said it was either “very important” or “somewhat important” to keep their home heating system without being forced to switch fuel types.

Banning new natural gas connections or curbing existing use dramatically will hurt Americans when costs of living are already high. The over-reliance on electric power for heating and cooking exposes households to higher risks when major weather events knock out the grid.

“New England households need diverse energy choices to maintain financial stability, and to protect families when the region’s electric power infrastructure is placed at risk by events such as a major winter storm,” said Karen Luther, Executive Director of NEHPBA. “It’s not just a matter of preference. It’s a matter of good energy policy and a matter of household safety and preparedness.”

About the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association

Since 1985, the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (NEHPBA) has represented the interests of the hearth industry in the Northeast.  NEHPBA was originally incorporated in January 1985 as the Northeast Solid Fuel Alliance (NESFA) in recognition of the unique demands of business in the Northeast. In June of 1992, NESFA members voted to become the first affiliated member of the national Hearth Products Association (HPA) and became the Northeast Hearth Products Association (NEHPA). In 2002, NEHPA became the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (NEHPBA) in conjunction with the merger of the national HPA with the Barbecue Industry Association to become the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA), thus recognizing the diversification of the modern industry.  The NEHPBA name has remained since 2002.


Benefits of Being a Member of Northeast HPBA

9 December 2020

You heard it here first! HPBA is the top resource for everything hearth and barbecue. By joining NEHPBA and HPBA, you can count on us for education and networking opportunities, business insights, and explore perks on cost savings. Become a part of the family! Renew or Join here.


Vermont "Climate Action Plan" is in the Works, May Ban NG in New Construction

7 December 2020

The 23 member VT Climate Council will hold their second meeting later this month. Created by the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA), the Council is required to develop a “Climate Action Plan” by December 2021. Under the GWSA, VT must show a significant drop in greenhouse gas emissions over the next four years. If emissions don’t decline by at least 26% by 2025, anyone could sue the state. This emission reduction mandate aligns with a decade old energy policy to virtually eliminate all petroleum in Vermont. It’s possible that the Climate Council will put together a plan to subsidize electric cars and electric heat pumps and ask the legislature to pass a tax on oil and gas to pay for the program. They may also consider banning oil and gas heat in new construction. Go to vermontfuel.com/gwsa for more about the law.


Burlington, VT Bans Outdoor Wood Fires - Again!

21 October 2020

The Burlington, VT City Council has banned backyard wood burning fire pits (again). No more S'mores due to concerns about air pollution. 

Meanwhile, the same city council is expected to impose a carbon tax on new gas furnaces in order to convince more people to hook up to electric heat. 

This is the same electric heat that caused Burlington, VT residents to flee an apartment complex because the temperature inside didn’t get above 45 degrees in December. 

This is also the same electricity that comes from the city-owned utility that is fed by the city-owned wood burning power plant. 

This is the same wood burning power plant that operates at just 24% efficiency and is the largest emitter of CO2 in Vermont.



Governor Baker, New England Governors Call for Modernization of Regional Electricity System

15 October 2020

Five Northeast Governors Seek Reform of Market Design, Transmission Planning, and Governance Needed to Achieve States’ Mandates for Clean, Affordable, and Reliable Power

BOSTON — Recognizing the critical role that New England’s regional wholesale electricity market plays in addressing climate change and cost-effectively reducing economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Governors from four Northeast states today issued a statement calling for reforms needed to achieve their states’ respective goals for clean, affordable, and reliable electricity.   

“To meet to our Administration’s goal of net zero emissions in Massachusetts by 2050, the Commonwealth needs a regional electricity system that can support the delivery of clean, affordable, and reliable energy to residents and businesses,” said Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker. “My administration looks forward to working with our partner states, ISO-New England and stakeholders to build a more transparent, modern and cost-effective power system that will allow New England states to meet our ambitious climate change and clean energy goals while creating a better future for our residents.”

The statement, signed by Governor Baker, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, Maine Governor Janet Mills, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, and Vermont Governor Phil Scott, calls for reform of the regional electricity market design, transmission planning process, and the governance of the ISO-New England, the independent system operator for the New England power system.  A Vision document outlining specific areas for reform will be released later this week through the New England States Committee on Electricity (NESCOE), a non-profit entity that represents the collective perspective of the New England states in regional electricity matters. 

“When Connecticut deregulated our electricity sector, we were promised competition, lower risk for ratepayers, more affordable electricity, and a system that respects and accommodates our clean energy mandates,” said Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont. “What we got is a system that has actively hindered our efforts to decarbonize the grid, and imposed burdensome costs on Connecticut ratepayers to fix market design failures. Working together with our neighboring states, I’m committed to achieving a regional electricity grid that provides the affordable, clean, and reliable electricity that Connecticut families and businesses deserve.”

“It is far past time that New England reforms how its electric grid is managed,” said Maine Governor Janet Mills. “The wholesale electricity markets must advance and support clean energy laws and policies, as the states demand decarbonization and markets and consumers support more renewables. ISO-New England must keep pace with state priorities and it must be more transparent and accountable in its decision making, broadening its focus to include consumer and environment concerns as well as reliability and cost.”

“Here in Rhode Island, we're committed to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and decarbonizing our future. I’m proud that we're on track to achieving 100% renewable energy by 2030,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “In order to meet our shared clean energy goals and aggressively combat climate change, it’s clear we need to take a regional approach.”  

“I’ve long said our work to address climate change can and must also work to make energy more affordable for Vermonters, so I’m pleased to be a part of this regional approach to achieving both of these priorities,” said Vermont Governor Phil Scott. “With a strategic, multi-state approach we can have a greater impact on both climate change mitigation and energy affordability.”

 In the coming months, the states will convene open and accessible forums to ensure that all interested stakeholders have an opportunity to participate in further refinement of the principles of the shared Vision.



NEHPBA: Get Ready for the Wood Burning Season Now

7 October 2020

October 7, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NEHPBA: Get Ready for the Wood Burning Season Now, October is ideal for stove maintenance, wood stockpiling

The Northeast Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association advises preparations for a severe winter. Perform equipment maintenance, stockpile fuel, review wood-burning best practices

Sudbury, MAThe Northeast Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association today issued a pre-winter alert urging households in the New England and New York region to prepare now for the wood-burning season. 

Long-range forecasts call for a severe winter in the Northeast, with lower than average temperatures predicted as well as a potentially major blizzard in February. Over 300,000 homeowners in the Northeast use wood as their primary heating source, with countless others using it as a secondary heating source.

Pre-winter equipment maintenance and cleaning, equipment testing and safety inspections, and stockpiling adequate firewood and wood pellet fuel are critical steps in being prepared for a winter of heavy wood-burning stove or hearth use. Only licensed professionals should perform this work. A comprehensive directory of licensed and verified professionals for wood-burning appliance maintenance is available from NEHPBA.

“Our member retailers and service providers are the most experienced industry professionals in the U.S., and every one of them will say a comprehensive pre-winter routine is critical to safely and efficiently burning wood fuel,” said Joel Etter, President of NEHPBA and Senior Wholesale Account Manager for Hearth & Home Technologies. “October is an ideal time to conduct this routine, and we are advising families and households all over the Northeast how to do this effectively.”

A good checklist for pre-winter inspection and maintenance on wood-burning stoves includes steps such as:

  • Disassemble and closely inspect all stove pipe sections.
  • Empty all soot and debris from interior of pipe sections.
  • Inspect for creosote build-up and use wire brush tool to remove.
  • Clean out firebox completely.
  • Clean glass window on door and inspect closely for cracks.
  • Clean out ash drawer.

Being prepared for the wood-burning season with adequate stockpiles of properly seasoned and properly stored wood fuel is also a critical step in a good pre-winter routine. All wood fuel should be seasoned for at least six months, stored outdoors and kept up off the ground with a tarp or other covering on top of each stack to minimize absorption of moisture.

A wood moisture meter is also a useful tool – as wood burns best with no more than 20 percent moisture. Buying and burning locally cut firewood also decreases the risk of transporting invasive insects and other pests to your property.

There are a broad range of useful information resources for best practices in burning wood fuel available through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Burn Wise program

“We are about to enter the most important time of the year for our industry – as the process of heating with wood fuel can be challenging and even daunting without the best guidance and expertise,” said Karen Luther, Executive Director of NEHPBA. “New England and New York area households benefit from diverse energy choices, and more households are choosing wood-burning appliances every year.”

NEHPBA and the entire industry are working together with other businesses as well as consumers to ensure that a range of energy choices continue to be available in the Northeast – that includes natural gas, propane and oil heat systems as well as wood-burning appliances.

About the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association

Since 1985, the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (NEHPBA) has represented the interests of the hearth industry in the Northeast.  NEHPBA was originally incorporated in January 1985 as the Northeast Solid Fuel Alliance (NESFA) in recognition of the unique demands of business in the Northeast. In June of 1992, NESFA members voted to become the first affiliated member of the national Hearth Products Association (HPA) and became the Northeast Hearth Products Association (NEHPA). In 2002, NEHPA became the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (NEHPBA) in conjunction with the merger of the national HPA with the Barbecue Industry Association to become the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA), thus recognizing the diversification of the modern industry.  The NEHPBA name has remained since 2002.



Incentive program launched to swap out old wood stoves in Cumberland County ME

6 October 2020


The American Lung Association is offering a voucher worth $1,000 to those who replace their high-polluting wood stove with a cleaner-burning one.


Homeowners who live in Cumberland County and own  inefficient wood stoves can apply for a voucher worth $1,000 toward a new  stove certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as part of  the Cumberland County Wood Stove Changeout Program, announced Tuesday by the American Lung Association.

The program aims to improve outdoor and indoor air quality by removing older, high-polluting wood stoves and replacing them with cleaner-burning, EPA-certified wood, pellet or gas stoves.

Cumberland County homeowners with a wood stove not certified by the EPA can apply for a limited number of available vouchers.

The vouchers include:

  • $1,000 toward a new, certified wood stove.
  • $1,500 for switching from a hydronic heater (boiler) to a certified wood stove.
  • $2,000 for a certified pellet, gas stoves or heat pump, if changing from wood stove or hydronic heater.
  • $3,000 for income-qualified participants, for certified wood, pellet, gas stoves or a heat pump.
  • $4,000 toward replacement of an old, hydronic heater with a new EPA Phase II hydronic heater or Energy Star gas furnace; $5,000 for replacement if the homeowner is below a certain income threshold.

“Replacing older, high-polluting stoves with new ones is an important way for communities to reduce harmful particle pollution and improve air quality,” said Michelle Edwards, the program’s coordinator for the Lung Association in Maine. “The American Lung Association has long been committed to reducing residents’ exposure to wood smoke, and we are proud to continue these efforts in Cumberland County.”

Since 2010, the Lung Association successfully implemented 11 wood stove change-out programs throughout the Northeast, resulting in over 1,000 change-outs to EPA-certified heating sources.

Particle pollution is made of soot or tiny particles that come from combustion. Such particles can lodge themselves deep in the lungs and trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks and strokes.

Applications for the vouchers are available online or at participating stores. Once people receive their voucher, they will have 30 days to enter into a purchase agreement with one of the retailers. The retailer then installs the new stove and recycles and makes the old stove inoperable.

In Cumberland County, participating retailers are Embers Stoves and Fireplaces in South Portland, Frost and Flame in Gorham, Goggins Energy in Portland and McVety’s Hearth and Home in Yarmouth. The Lung Association is collaborating on the effort with the Northeast Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association.

For more program details, go to Lung.org/woodstove or call 800-­548-­8252.

BY TUX TURKELSTAFF WRITER/https://www.pressherald.com/



October is National Fireplace Month

1 October 2020

This fireplace season, it’s likely consumers will be spending more time at home than ever before. With uncertainty swirling outside our homes, the hearth is truly the center of warmth, comfort and relaxation in our lives.

This year for #NationalFireplaceMonth, HPBA is conducting a national media relations and social media campaign called “Home is Where the Hearth Is” encouraging people to make the most of their fireplaces this season.

“Home is Where the Hearth Is” will inform consumers on how to prep their fireplaces for the season; encourage they work with specialty retailers and NFI-certified specialists; offer tips on making the most of the fireplace during these uncertain times; provide a playlist of the best songs to enjoy fireside; and, even ask people to share “awkward family photos” together by the fire.

We hope you can take part.  We encourage you to share our press release and share these posts throughout October on your channels.  Or, follow the HPBA social media pages on Facebook and Instagram pages and on the NEHPBA Facebook page and share. Remember, always use the hashtag #NationalFireplaceMonth.


Help NEHPBA Fight Gas Bans in New England and New York

22 September 2020

As you create your budget for 2021, the NEHPBA Board needs your support, once again, in continuing our very successful and effective campaign to fight on your behalf against gas and fossil fuels bans in the Northeast. We hope that you can once again assist in funding our regional lobbying efforts.

As you know, we have hired O’Neil & Associates, a prestigious lobbying firm with whom we have been very effective in fighting Energy Zero (Net-Zeo/Electrification/Gas Ban) Issues. This has been a valuable and worthy expense to forward our progress. We are asking all members as well as HPBA to help us fund this cause for continuing the fight into 2021. You may or may not know that several members, including dealers, manufacturers and distributors, have agreed to funding help. As you know, there is great concern with the relentless initiative to ban natural gas and fossil fuels in our region. With the help of our lobbying firm we have so far been very successful.

 Here is some insight into a few of our winning campaigns: 

  • Board of Building Regulations & Standards, MA (BBRS) - State Wide NetZero Building code – Testified at Public Hearing and submitted written comments. Got BBRS to “stay” the vote in Nov 2019, pushing it off until May 2020.
  • A Members-Only webinar with David Ismay, Undersecretary of Climate Initiative to Governor Baker – the highest government official we have ever had the ear of one-on-one for a conversation re the path to Net-Zero.
  • MA Attorney General Healy voted against the Brookline, MA city-wide gas ban – Submitted written testimony on behalf of our members and initiated a letter-writing/email campaign to the MA AG in July 2020.  
  • MA S.2842 State-Wide Gas Ban Legislative Amendment we had overturned through a phone call/email campaign by our members.
  • Overturned MA amendment 61 to House Climate Bill removing language about improving greenhouse emissions through the use of biomass/wood/proper forestation – email writing campaign for members to Massachusetts House of Reps.
  • Board of Building Regulations s & Standards, MA (BBRS) - State Wide NetZero Building code – Again testified at Zoom Public Hearing and submitted written testimony. Convinced BBRS to vote against and overturn this building code in May 2020, removing this completely from the agenda going forward.
  • Presently, we are writing a comment letter on behalf of our members to be submitted to the Conference Committee regarding the Massachusetts Climate Bill.

We are also working on a "Save Our Natural Gas and Propane" campaign hopefully in combination with Propane Gas of New England (PGANE) and HPBA, we are publishing regular press releases on “energy diversity and security”, Joel Etter (NEHPBA President) and I will be participating in a podcast with O’Neil & Associates on this subject in October, and we are closely monitoring legislation in CT regarding greater accountability in the utility sector, natural gas legislation in NY, as well as licensing legislation in VT.

NEHPBA has joined the Mass Coalition for Sustainable Energy (MCSE) and The Empowerment Alliance. NEHPBA had a hand in writing and editing the MCSE letter to the conferees regarding the MA Climate Bill.

We will continue the fight for Clean and Affordable Energy. Please join us. We appreciate any donation either monthly or a one-time sponsorship. https://nehpba.org/donation#!form/Sponsorship

Thank you for your Support. Please let me know if you have any questions at all. I am available via phone and email anytime.



Why Attend HPBA Expo 2021 in Nashville, TN

9 September 2020

While life is drastically different this year, one thing is sure—hearth, patio, and barbecue sales have been heating up all year. HPBExpo is your best opportunity to reconnect with the industry and access the latest trends, technology and training that will ensure your customers turn to you when they invest in their homes and businesses.

Held in the heartland of Nashville, HPBExpo’s vibrant location will attract top retailers coming to see suppliers showcase their latest products and innovations your customers will be demanding in upcoming seasons. With the barbecue market poised to grow by more than $3 billion by 2023 and the hearth market by almost $4 billion by 2023, consumers are investing heavily in their homes. Make sure you’re part of it by registering now for HPBExpo.

Join Us for Three Days of:

  • Business strategies and solutions that address the challenges and opportunities of the current market
  • Networking opportunities with industry veterans, new businesses and top suppliers—hear what’s working and how others are adapting in today’s new normal
  • Actionable solutions you can use right away to grow your revenue
  • Access to the industry’s latest innovation in multi-functional furniture, barbecue technology, and hearth and patio-heating equipment
  • More than 30 expert-led education and training sessions that will give you a competitive edge—and National Fireplace Institute® (NFI) Certification

Registration begins tomorrow, September 10, 2020! Register now. For more information, contact NEHPBA.


MA Employers Have Short Window to Challenge Unemployment Charges

20 August 2020

Associated Industries of Massachusetts today alerted members to keep an eye out for their unemployment benefit charge statements for the month of July 2020 and to file any protests to those charges within 30 days.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) all COVID-19 related benefit credits will be reflected on the July 2020 Benefit Charge Statement. Employers are asked to wait until they have received these charges to initiate claims protests.  Currently, employers have 30 days from the date of their July statement to protest any claims through the DUA.

AIM has been fielding questions from employers who received charges for the consecutive months of March, April, May, and June as well, but we have been informed that the July 2020 statements will be most relevant and up to date.

According to the federal CARES Act, reimbursing employers (those who pay into the system on a per-claim basis versus contributory employers who pay through a traditional payroll tax) are liable for 50 percent of their COVID-19 related unemployment charges. The same legislation shields contributory employers paying into the system through payroll taxes from covering COVID-19 claims by charging them to each state’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust Fund. State legislation passed into law this May allows reimbursing employers in Massachusetts 120 days from the date on their July statement to complete payment on the UI charges made to their accounts.

Although contributory employers are not liable for COVID-19 claims, AIM encourages all employers to thoroughly review their benefit charge statements and to protest any incorrect charges they see.

The state’s employers ultimately fund the UI Trust Fund, which has been bearing the brunt of an unprecedented surge in unemployment claims since March.

According to the Massachusetts Trust Fund Outlook Report from May 2020, the status of the Fund will become insolvent into 2024, at least, especially if the federal government takes no further action. The Fund is expected to be in the red by $3 billion at the end of this year, $6 billion at the end of 2021 and 2022, and insolvent still by about $5.22 billion at the end of 2024.

The same report indicates employer contributions stand to increase by $6 million in Fiscal Year 2021 through automatic employer rate increases that are based on the Fund’s overall financial condition. Massachusetts remains a state with one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.

Employers currently have only 30 days to file all benefit charge protests. Due to the influx of claims related to COVID-19, protests must be submitted online through an employer’s individual UI Account by logging in and selecting “Benefit Charge Activity,” followed by “Benefit Charge Protest.”

In order to file a successful protest, employers must have access to the claimant’s full name and Social Security Number. The employer must complete all fields marked with a red asterisk and enter the reasons for protesting in the available text box while leaving the “Mail Date,” and “Document ID” fields blank.

The “Last Day Worked” entered in the protest must match the last day reported by the claimant whose benefits charges are being protested. In order to access this information through the DUA, employers are directed to email the Department at EmployerCharge@detma.org with “Last Day Worked Inquiry” specified in the subject line of their email.

Reimbursing employers are asked to email UIEmployerReports@detma.org with any additional questions. All other inquiries and concerns are again directed to EmployerCharge@detma.org.

The DUA has additionally made the following resources available for employers seeking to understand their UI responsibilities:

AIM has continued to advocate on the federal level for direct, immediate financial relief to state UI Trust Funds and additional forgiveness for non-profits and reimbursing employers who are still liable for 50 percent of their UI bills.

To read more about the condition of the UI Trust Fund and AIM’s comments to the Globe, please click here (paywall). 

To access additional AIM guidelines and resources on how to protect your business from unemployment insurance fraud, please see our previous UI blog post – Be On Alert for National Unemployment Insurance Scam 

Source: BUDGET, TAX, & FINANCE ECONOMY NEWS 


Widespread Power Outages Across New England Highlight Importance of Energy Diversity

6 August 2020

August 6, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NEHPBA: Preserving access to natural gas and other fuel sources is critical for emergency readiness in major weather events

Sudbury, MA – The Northeast Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association today said that widespread power outages being experienced across New England highlight the critical nature of energy diversity and the risks of over-dependence on electric power for household and commercial heating, cooking and cooling.

More than 220,000 households were without power in Massachusetts following Tropical Storm Isaias late Tuesday night, while approximately 50,000 lost power in New Hampshire. Rhode Island reported over 100,000 households without power after the storm, and a staggering 700,000 homes were still without power Thursday morning across Connecticut, leaving work crews scrambling to restore service and state officials furious at utility response times.

“Tropical Storm Isaias is a summer weather event, but it’s a vivid illustration of how huge sections of the power grid can be knocked out in a matter of minutes at any time of the year,” said Joel Etter, President of NEHPBA and Senior Wholesale Account Manager for Hearth & Home Technologies. “Winter Nor’easters, blizzards and ice storms are something we are all too familiar with in New England. When the grid goes down in those conditions, over-reliance on electric power can be dangerous.”

NEHPBA is part of a cross-section of industry associations and advocates fighting to maintain energy diversity in the marketplace – as special interests support initiatives to ban natural gas, complicate regulations around propane and wood-burning fuel products and limit choices for home-heating systems. The industry is working together with other businesses as well as consumers to ensure natural gas continues to be available in New England and the Northeast as part of a complete range of energy choices.

Banning new natural gas connections or curbing existing use dramatically will hurt Americans when costs of living are already high. The over-reliance on electric power for heating and cooking exposes households to higher risks when major weather events knock out the grid.“New England households need diverse energy choices to maintain financial stability, and to protect families when the region’s electric power infrastructure sustains massive failure– as we are seeing today,” said Karen Luther, Executive Director of NEHPBA. “It happens in the summer and it happens in winter. It happened this week and it will happen again.”


About the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association

Since 1985, the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (NEHPBA) has represented the interests of the hearth industry in the Northeast.  NEHPBA was originally incorporated in January 1985 as the Northeast Solid Fuel Alliance (NESFA) in recognition of the unique demands of business in the Northeast. In June of 1992, NESFA members voted to become the first affiliated member of the national Hearth Products Association (HPA) and became the Northeast Hearth Products Association (NEHPA). In 2002, NEHPA became the Northeast Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (NEHPBA) in conjunction with the merger of the national HPA with the Barbecue Industry Association to become the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA), thus recognizing the diversification of the modern industry.  The NEHPBA name has remained since 2002.


Why Peak Electricity Usage Matters (& The Importance of Natural Gas)

29 July 2020

With hot and humid conditions enveloping New England, demand for electricity across the region hit its highest level so far this year at about 6:30 p.m. Monday.

This year’s peak experience in many ways highlights how the regional power grid is changing and how far it has to go to fully decarbonize.

ISO New England, the organization that oversees the regional power grid, had forecast this summer’s peak usage would hit 25,500 megawatts between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. Actual usage came in at 24,736 megawatts, more than 300 megawatts higher than last year’s peak but nearly 1,600 megawatts lower than 2018.

The all-time peak usage in the region was 28,130 megawatts on August 2, 2006. Peak usage has been stagnant or dropping in recent years, primarily due to energy efficiency efforts that have helped curb overall electricity demand by 3,300 megawatts and small-scale solar and wind installations that reduce demand for power from the grid. 

COVID-19 is also playing a role this year. Energy usage appears to be higher in residential homes as more people stay at home but lower in commercial and industrial facilities. Overall, ISO New England estimates, COVID-19 has cut energy demand by 3 to 5 percent. 

Peaks have out-sized importance because the region needs enough power plants to meet demand when demand is at its highest point. Lowering the peak is beneficial since it means the region can get by with fewer power plants.

Peaks used to occur in the afternoon, when temperatures hit their highest levels and air conditioners are going full tilt. But the deployment of solar panels on roofs across the region has pushed the peak into the early evening. During the afternoon, the behind-the-meter solar installations produce the most power. As the sun begins to set, however, solar power production falls off and the region becomes more and more dependent on large-scale power generators.

There is lots of talk on Beacon Hill about going 100 percent renewable, but Monday’s peak experience illustrates how far the region has to go. The regional power grid handled Monday’s surge in electricity demand easily, but in doing so it relied primarily on power generated by natural gas (70 percent), nuclear (16 percent), hydro (8 percent), renewables (5 percent), and even a bit of oil and coal. The oil and coal plants tend to come online only when demand is at its highest.

Most energy analysts want to decarbonize the economy using electricity. Cars and trucks, for example, would shift from gasoline to electricity. Electricity would also be used for heat and hot water in homes and commercial buildings. Brookline took a step in this direction recently by approving a bylaw banning pipes carrying natural gas and oil in all new construction. Attorney General Maura Healey, while sympathetic to the bylaw’s intent, rejected the measure because it conflicted with three state laws. 

If the region’s power grid doesn’t go green, the shift to electricity won’t pay many environmental dividends. That’s why the state is pursuing the purchase of offshore wind and hydro-electricity from Canada, to help reduce reliance on natural gas and other fossil fuels.

As of Tuesday morning, however, the power grid was relying most on natural gas. According to ISO New England’s real-time information, the grid’s power was coming primarily from natural gas (74 percent), with the balance from nuclear (19 percent), renewables (5 percent), and hydroelectricity (2 percent). 

Commonwealth Daily Download, By Bruce Mohl 


Economic Benefits through the Direct Use of Natural Gas

22 July 2020

Over 69 million American households rely on natural gas utilities to provide energy to appliances inside their homes. Another 5.7 million more commercial and industrial businesses are supplied through the same local gas utilities to meet their daily needs. This feat is made possible by hundreds of thousands of individuals employed by gas utilities and their extended supply chains. However, job creation and economic development don’t end with the actions of utilities or by producers. Through this service, job opportunities exist across the entire U.S. economy through the direct, indirect, and induced effects of supplying energy to homes and businesses.

In addition to the 138 thousand individuals employed by natural gas utilities, companies that supply these utilities create associated natural gas jobs too, and the grand sum of all employed individuals encourages additional economic activity through the consumption of goods or services by individuals. These companies also provide a critical intermediate service for other businesses to operate. This analysis will determine both the total impact on employment from the natural gas direct use supply chain as well as to uncover the extent to which utility jobs stay local.

Based on the findings from the REMI model, in 2018, over 3.4 million jobs were connected to the direct use of natural gas. These jobs added $408 billion to GDP and paid $152 billion in personal income. The model also indicated a strong relationship between natural gas utilities and the local economy, with as much as 83 percent of all employment remaining local. Also, the prospects for new sales and the more specific inclusion of converting electric homes to natural gas have positive economic growth beyond the potential savings sustained by individual households. 

Want to be part of the solution and part of the conversation? Contact Northeast HPBA.

Click here for the full report.

AGA.org


MA Reps Rally for Emissions-Cutting Roadmap Bill

15 July 2020

Action Possible After July 31, Two Reps Suggest


BOSTON, JULY 15, 2020.....About a dozen House lawmakers joined climate and environment advocates Wednesday morning to drum up support for a bill that would require the executive branch to prepare a formal plan to reach the shared goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Gov. Charlie Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Karen Spilka this year each declared their support for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, a policy that climate activists have long been pushing. Both branches have passed climate bills but the 2050 target still hasn't been formalized by the Democrat-controlled Legislature with time set to run out on the session in two weeks, unless lawmakers waive their own rules.

"I personally think it's the best bill that is in the Legislature right now," Rep. Smitty Pignatelli, House chairman of the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee, said of Rep. Joan Meschino's bill to require a 2050 emissions reduction roadmap.

Meschino's bill (H 3983) would codify the target of net-zero emissions by 2050, require the establishment of interim 2030 and 2040 targets, require the Baker administration by the end of 2021 to file a plan detailing how Massachusetts can meet the 2050 target, and require that the plan be updated every two-and-a-half years. The bill was reported out of Pignatelli's committee favorably almost a year ago and has been in the House Ways and Means Committee since.

"We're all well aware of the climate crisis. The issues present as public health, public safety, environmental justice, environmental health, social justice. However, the solution is an economic one. It is the decarbonization of our economy," Meschino said during a virtual rally hosted by 350 Mass, Conservation Law Foundation, Mothers Out Front, Elders Climate Action Massachusetts and others. "And if we're going to accomplish those goals, then we need a plan. And that is why I filed this bill. I filed the 2050 roadmap because we need a plan to achieve our goals."

The 12-year-old Global Warming Solutions Act requires an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 levels by 2050, but the Baker administration is already working on its own roadmap to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 with the help of "experts and stakeholders," the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs has said. The administration intends to release its plan to meet the state's carbon reduction goals by the end of this year.

Meschino said she thinks of her bill as making a series of critical updates to the Global Warming Solutions Act and noted that Baker's energy and environment secretariat "has begun to do some of the work around the backcast analysis," in which the schedule of emission reductions is detailed and then paired with the strategies proposed to achieve them over time.

"I think that this bill is one of the single most important pieces of legislation that we're going to put through this year. It's going to be transformative of the way that we live, and it's going to be transformative for our economy," Meschino, a Hull Democrat, said.

Though the bill is in the House Ways and Means Committee, Pignatelli advised advocates to focus their lobbying efforts on DeLeo and Rep. Tom Golden, the chairman of the House Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy who is spearheading a review of climate and environmental bills.

"I think that's where these decisions are going to be made," he said.

And though formal sessions of the Legislature are currently due to end after July 31, Pignatelli said he expects that lawmakers will get another crack at passing climate legislation and other bills later this year.

"Everything has been kind of thrown off the rails, like I said. We normally would be done by the end of July. I truly believe that we will be called back into session sometime this fall. We don't even have a state budget at this point. So, under normal circumstances, we'd all be scrambling for the last two weeks of this session to get this bill across the finish line. I still would love to see that happen on Joan's bill," he said. "But if it doesn't, I don't feel any of us should feel the collective, 'oh my God, we lost another time.' So I think that the advocacy should continue, whether it's the next two weeks, or the next few months."

Legislative leaders haven't announced plans to attempt to extend formal sessions, although at this point it appears nearly impossible for the branches to pass an overdue annual budget through both branches this month.

Rep. Michelle Ciccolo of Lexington said that Meschino's 2050 roadmap bill is one of the top 10 bills that she would like to see get across the finish line this session, whether the vote comes before July 31 or sometime between August and January.

"Toward that end, I've been sending letters and emails to [House] leadership, making phone calls and actually asking them to look at extending the session," she said Wednesday. "I'm fully in favor of us coming back after the election, after the primaries, staying late into August, whatever it is that we need to do to make sure that we get this across the finish line."

Rep. Kay Khan, chairwoman of the House Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities, said she would be happy to raise the subject of Meschino's bill with both DeLeo and Golden.

"I think that carbon neutrality by 2050 is within our reach and it is our responsibility to our children -- and I'm lucky enough to have seven grandchildren and I think about them every day and the importance of moving forward and to get this done -- and the roadmap bill lays out a very big yet promising goal and path ahead," Khan said. "It is designed to accelerate our progress toward net-zero emissions by pushing us to exploit and explore all possible avenues toward reaching that goal, and the time is now."

Climate legislation had figured to be a central focus of the legislative session's home stretch since the House and Senate had each passed major climate-related bills before most business was put on pause.

The House last July approved a roughly $1.3 billion bill -- the so-called GreenWorks bill -- centered around grants to help communities adapt to climate change impacts, and at the end of January the Senate overwhelmingly passed a suite of climate bills that called for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and set deadlines for the state to impose carbon-pricing mechanisms for transportation, commercial buildings and homes.

Golden has said that the House "is eager to move forward" on climate legislation, and he and his Senate counterpart, Sen. Michael Barrett, are in agreement that the Legislature ought to pass a climate bill into law by the end of 2020.

"The House of Representatives has taken an approach for some time with GreenWorks," Golden said at the end of June. "I'm looking forward to working with Senator Barrett on moving our vision as well as the Senate's vision towards a final, rectifying a final piece of legislation. I think it's vitally important that we finish this before 2020 ends."

Want to get involved? Want to get involved in the conversation? Contact Northeast HPBA today!

statehousenews.com, by Colin A. Young7/15/20 3:02 PM


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